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Will poor cash ISA rates shock you into stocks and shares?

Only one cash ISA has an interest rate above inflation and it has just cut the rate. Now might be the time to put your money in a stocks and shares ISA.

 

by Michelle McGagh, Gavin Lumsden on Feb 07, 2013 at 14:15

Will poor cash ISA rates shock you into stocks and shares?

Prospects for savers in this year's 'ISA season' look bleak. Normally at this time of year, with the end of the tax year of 5 April approaching, banks and building societies woo savers with new cash ISAs with improved rates of interest.

Not this year. Last month Coventry Building Society, the only cash ISA provider left offering an interest rate above inflation, cut the interest rate on its 60-Day Notice ISA to 2.8% from 3.1%. It still pays a real return above inflation but only just given the consumer prices index (CPI) is stuck at 2.7%.  

As things stand all other cash ISAs will lose you money as their rate of interest does not offset the impact of inflation, which reduces the value of your money over time.

The Coventry account is only open to new money (with minimum deposit of just £1), which means you can't even transfer other savings you may have to get this top rate. It's the same with the second-best cash ISA, the 90-day notice account from Earl Shilton building society which offers 2.7%.

If you want to transfer existing savings the best rate you will get from one of the top six providers (all building societies by the way) is 2.5% from Cheshire building society’s instant access ISA (minimum deposit £1,000).

According to Moneyfacts, the financial product comparison site, the number of cash ISAs has fallen to 309 from 385 in the past year, while the average interest rate paid has plunged to a miserable 1.74% from 2.55%.

As Peter Hargreaves, boss of Hargreaves Lansdown, the FTSE 100 company operating the country's biggest investment 'supermarket', pointed out yesterday, the government's Funding for Lending scheme is to blame.

The government has provided mortgage lenders £80 billion in cheap finance in a bid to boost mortgage lending. While mortgage lending has increased, the unfortunate side effect is that lenders are less reliant on attracting money from savers in order to fund their lending. The result is that competitive cash ISAs have dwindled away. Hargreaves condemned the government for this 'fiasco' which left savers in a terrible position.

Sylvia Waycot of Moneyfacts said: ‘New ISA accounts normally hit the market with a flurry of razzamatazz in early January but we are already in February and only a few accounts have trickled quietly into the market. Normally we would expect to see providers trying to grab our attention with headline rates but this year, while rates on some accounts have gone up, they have not generally risen by as much as they were recently reduced by.’

Waycot said the restrictions on transfers meant savers may have to juggle different pots of money if they want to get the best rate on their money. ‘If you are lucky enough to have saved in an ISA for more than one year, you might find an added complication because not all providers will allow you to move older ISAs into the new one. This means that you suddenly have to keep your eye on multiple pots of money.'

She added: ‘It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a bonanza ISA season this year, so if you see one you like, don’t hang around as a limited market always disappears fast.’

Time to invest in a stocks and shares ISA?

Hargreaves' criticism of the government came as his company reported record half-year results with a 30% leap in profits. Hargreaves Lansdown - and other investment websites - are seeing growing numbers of people starting to invest in stocks and shares ISAs, which while riskier, offer the prospect of a better return.

The question is, if you're not already considering a stocks and shares ISA, is it time to join in?

Just to remind you of the basics. In the current 2012/13 tax year you can save up to £5,640 into a cash ISA. That's half your total annual ISA allowance of £11,280. Alternatively, you can put the whole lot into a stocks and shares ISA.

Of course you may not want to put all your money at risk on the stock market. You may want to keep some 'rainy day' money in a cash ISA anyway.

That's absolutely fine but the unavoidable fact is that with interest rates so low if you want to have a chance of growing your money ahead of inflation you have to invest it in the stock market in some way.

The easiest way to invest is to find an investment fund that you can hold through your ISA. Here are a couple of videos from The Lolly Investor Programme that explain more about stocks and shares ISAs and investment funds.

What's a stocks and shares ISA?

How to pick a good fund for your ISA and pension

55 comments so far. Why not have your say?

john williams

Feb 07, 2013 at 14:59

I think these miserable ISA rates will kill off cash ISAs.

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William Phillips

Feb 07, 2013 at 15:04

Note how mutuals give savers the best deals, while the banksters continue to mis-sell, gouge, rig markets and whine for their bonuses while clutching lifelines thrown to them by the taxpayer.

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J Thomas

Feb 07, 2013 at 15:10

Indeed there is no point having a cash ISA at these rates, I've not put any money into one for two years. I have £42,000 in a Skipton five year fixed ISA paying 4.75%pa which is starting to look like one of the best deals ever, even with a 270 day interest penalty for any withdrawals.

However when this matures in three years I believe the cash Isa will be stone dead.

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David Phan

Feb 07, 2013 at 15:54

Funding for lending as well as low Libor rates has caused low deposit rates, however, prior to Funding for Lending interest rates were still below inflation.

It doesn't make financial sense for an Institution to pay a saver say 3.5% and then sell that money on a morgage for 2.5%.

Having said that, banks still need to build up reserves and retain and attract funds so should offer something more competitve.

Cash as an asset is poor in current climate and people should consider transfering their Cash ISA into an equity ISA, depending on your appetite for risk.

If investing is not for you, I would still utilise your ISA allowance as when rates are more generous in years to come you will have a bigger pot. The alternative of not topping up is to leave on deposit.

Even more disturbing is that a majority of deposit accounts have annual bonus rates and if you haven't been on top of this then you could be getting anything as low as 0.1%

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DGL

Feb 07, 2013 at 16:42

Hang about guys.... interest rates won't always be low - within a couple of years banks will want your cash again and have to offer real returns (above inflation) so for 'low-riskers' wanting to build up a tax-free pot I suggest - take the short-term pain - invest every year in a cash ISA.

Personally I invest in a S&S ISA and have gone heavily into e.g Tesco Bank retail bonds paying 5%....yes I know Tesco Bank may go bust....

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A Williams

Feb 07, 2013 at 16:51

- Property prices continuing to fall except in prime London.

- Gold prices at a plateau.

- Bonds in a "dangerous bubble".

- Equity market overdue for a "correction".

- EM funds oversubscribed.

- European/US debt mountain growing.

- India growth forecast revised down again.

Somehow a guaranteed tax free, commission free 2.8% doesn't sound too bad...

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JohnW

Feb 07, 2013 at 17:30

I still have a cash ISA invested over a fixed term at 5%. But as to new money, I did start a cash ISA last year simply to hold the remnants that years ISA allowance until I had decided what to invest in. Dont forget you can now convert cash ISA's into Stocks & Shares ISA's so they do still have uses as a short term home.

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Dennis .

Feb 07, 2013 at 21:09

I have thought for a long time that ISAs are actually a marketing ploy. They are not tax free since the income is taxed at source anyway. Unless you are a higher rate tax payer there is no benefit. Building societies con people into taxfree savings in that same way as duty free shops con people into thinking they are saving duty. As for stocks and shares ISAs the only benefit is from CGT and if you die you lose the ISA status immediately.

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BOB 2

Feb 07, 2013 at 21:26

But don't forget once you have swapped your cash ISA's over to stock & shares ISA's you can not swap them back into cash ISA's,

For us old cash ISA'S savers with med to high amounts in cash ISA's tax free

we are stuck with them, unless we wan't to take chances on the markets ups & downs, trouble is if it takes a dive, we mite not be hear to see it rise again.

cash them in and purchase tesco bonds 5%. 4% after tax if your over the

tax code allowance trouble is once you have cash them in it will take years to replace them if interest rates start to rise again. interest rates wan't stay low for ever .I am sticking with

cash isa;s at an average across my savings of 3.04% for the next two years.

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Dennis .

Feb 07, 2013 at 22:22

The other problem with cash ISAs is that you need to lock your money away for at least a year to get anything remotely useful as an interest rate so that your money is not actually available to you any more. I just had a 12 month ISA mature with over £10K in it and the best offer was 1.9% for another year so I moved it into my stocks and shares ISAs. I have another £80K cash maturing over the next few months and am wondering what to do with that lot.

Don't forget that you can get tax free money from a building society anyway by filling in the correct form depending upon your income status.

Overall don't be fooled by Building Society ISA claims. They are marketing tools aimed at the financially illiterate.

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BOB 2

Feb 07, 2013 at 23:23

Dennis if your like me ,pensions over the tax allowance,isa;s were great as a top up to your income, fixed and safe ,in thre good days i have had as much as 7% fixed with RBS ,I have been tempted to swap for s&s isa but never timed

it write catching the market at a low point, If i were tempted i would go for some

sort of investment were your capital is safe ,for about a three year term, but as i pointed out once you swap you can't swap back. good luck.

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Hotrod

Feb 08, 2013 at 10:29

A lot of media comments about the ins and outs of switching is just noise. In many instances they are talking about fractions of 1% which is not worth bothering your head about.

I'm in the same camp as BOB2. Nobody is talking about compound interest. i.e. Interest upon interest builds into a increasing proportion of your capital over time if you do not make withdrawals.

Another thing which has been overlooked by some journalists is that banks and building societies deduct 20% tax at source by default on standard deposit accounts, irrespective of the fact that HMRC have a 10% tax band in place in addition to the nil rate personal allowance.

If HMRC are not up to date with your additional investment incomes they will not refund any excess tax, you have to claim it by either submitting form R40 or filing a Self Assessment Tax Return.

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Maverick

Feb 08, 2013 at 16:05

This, to me, is a complete no-brainer.

Shares ISAs are designed to protect capital gains. If you can't beat the rate on offer in a cash ISA by buying shares in a few well-chosen investment trusts you will be incredibly unlucky.

Since 2006 I have invested £70,000 in a shares ISA, including a transfer from a cash ISA. The ISA is now worth (net of fees) £105,390. I had no experience at all of investing when I started, so I have made my mistakes along the way.

Just do it, and stop whingeing . . . .

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BOB 2

Feb 08, 2013 at 18:05

maverick, I worked out if you had £70,000 in cash isa's for the last 7 years at

an average of 4% you would have made around £22,200 and a total of £92,200

and slept in piece with your self knowing your money was safe,

yes i have played with shares over the years,and with the crashes and bad decisions lost a few thousand ,that's why i have stuck to cash isa's, its a shame this government decided to destroy the cash isa market by introducing

funds for lending,but savers to them are not important enough, banks are,

Last word , I am lucky enough to receive around £4800 in income from my

ISA's and bond a year i planned for a bit more, but am quite happy with my income top up a retirement .ps and sleep like a baby.

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Dennis .

Feb 08, 2013 at 18:24

BOB2 If you use the HL inflation calculator then £70K over the last 6 years would need to have grown to £88.5K to have beaten inflation so your real total return over 6 years is only £3.5K.

If you have received an average of 4% over this period you have been very lucky, I haven't seen rates like that for years. Are you sure you weren't dreaming whilst sleeping as a baby?

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BOB 2

Feb 08, 2013 at 19:13

DENNIS

both of us had 4% for last three years fixed rate isa just matured.

before that 7% RBS two years f r isa.

F,R ISA with prinability b.s 4.2 % 3 years just matured jan.2012

F R ISA with santander 4% two years now

Two F R ISA'S with halifax 2year 4%

INSTANT ACCESS ISA SWANSEA BS now 2.72%

5 year bond 4.3% untill 2016 with 6 monthly notice access.3.44% after tax.

we had isa's since year after they began , mostly fixed rate isa's transferring them when they matured,we been with prob. most providers some twice

I think we not done to bad ,at least we have never lost a penny unless as you pointed out inflation,but thats always going to be a factor ,arr well lets hope interest rates start to rise in a couple of years.or the banks start running short of money,

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Dennis .

Feb 08, 2013 at 19:56

BOB you have done very well, I have never wanted to put my money away for years at a time in case I actually need to get to it (which actually I haven't). Although I still keep about £80K in BS accounts my main investments are in S&S ISAs where I can get a better return plus gain instant access if I need it.

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BOB 2

Feb 08, 2013 at 20:48

DENNIS

Its all about luck and good judgement , my first investment suggested to me by a stock broker, was a company called bimec industries whent in and made a quick £300 thought this is great piled back in ,same co.going up,until it was found out they did not have enough money to pay the dividend , the share price dropped 50% due to a lack of experience i held week later ,it was published that the co.had been lying about the amount of money they had in the kitty.

price dropped another 50% approx. ending up selling stock for pennies

lost about £9000 .put me off investments full stop

now if things had gone well who knows where i be at this stage some 25 years on.ref. the old saying once bitten twice shy .

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Dennis .

Feb 08, 2013 at 21:02

OK here is a similar story, back in the days of demutualisations I had over £40K in the C&G for some years and I was advised by the counter staff to move it into special high interest deposit account. It turned out this particular account was not a "share" account so I missed out on about £8K bonus from the demutualisation. Had I ignored their advice I would have been £8K richer.

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J Thomas

Feb 08, 2013 at 22:32

Dennis.

I think you would have had a case for constructive negligence against C & G for transfering you into non paying demutualisation account.

The terms were extremely generous as I recall, there was a £500 minimum payment, and in addition a 17% windfall premium up to a maximum of £100,000 deposit. So a member with £100,000 on deposit would have recieved £17,500. This is what I received and it was tax free. ( I walked under a lucky star in those days.)

The whole Cheltenham & Gloucester demutulisation was highly controversial if I remember correctly. Some Board Members argued current depositors had no right to sell the assets of their Victorian ancestors and there were several Court cases in an attempt to block the demutulisation.

Recent history has shown C & G would have been better off remaining mutual and independant.

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Dennis .

Feb 08, 2013 at 23:45

J Thomas, I recall that the government at the time was trying to get the BSocs to recommend to people when higher rate accounts were available and that is the trap I fell into. Apparently in those days a number of accounts with different BSocs were named as "deposit" accounts in the small print, offering higher rates but not "membership".

I took part in a class action where a large group of depositors paid for a legal challenge on this point alone and it was unsuccessful.

I still don't trust BSocs, they talk as if they are on the side of the members but have a closed shop in terms of board representation and generally try to screw their customers with poor rates or dodgy structured products. Unfortunately a lot of vulnerable folk are dependent upon them.

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Hotrod

Feb 09, 2013 at 08:42

If my memory serves, C&G were one of last mutuals to go public. I think part of the problem was that by the time they got round to it everybody was trying to jump on the gravy train by opening multiple BS accounts in the hope that some of them would follow suit.

However, I agree, at a time when interest rates were rising, BS's adopted a strategy of developing new deposit products offering higher rates and leaving rates unchanged in existing accounts, thus forcing informed depositors to switch and obtaining cheap capital from all those who acquiesced.

It's a different world we live in today, and I for one don't miss having to traipse back and forth to branches with my deposit books.

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J Thomas

Feb 09, 2013 at 09:22

Dennis. & Hotrod,

The whole demutualisation saga is a topic which could fill endless commentary on these pages. A lot of Building Society members did very well when the mutuals decided to become plc's , myself included.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, one individual member has almost zero influence on events and so would be foolish not to take the money on offer.

Reverting back to the core of this original discussion regarding Cash ISAs one of the reasons I have stuck with Skipton BS Cash ISAs is because they are still a mutual, and one of the largest and solvent around.

I don't believe Skipton will demutulise in the near future, but in ten years time who knows?

I don't know if Skipton force new members to sign waiver forms for any windfall rights, that wasn't the case when I became a member many years ago, however they may have one in place now.

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BOB 2

Feb 09, 2013 at 10:46

The trouble with banks/b.soc. when they get to big ,they get greedy ,all the back office boys& girls trying to impress the manager by trying to think up ways of taking a bit more out of customers pockets,these days its grab what you can wile you can.

There is no loyalty now. The adds on the TV for banks&Bsoc, make me want to shout out ................. plus that dreadful DFS add that seems to have a sale

every week with there so called half price offers.

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pepsi

Feb 09, 2013 at 11:28

A suggestion for HM Government - why not let ISA's be a two-way switch by allowing Stocks and Shares ISA's to be allowed to switch back to Cash ISA's as opposed to the present one-way traffis? This would be a much more flexible approach than at present and would not pose Mr Osborne with any tax penalty.

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J Thomas

Feb 09, 2013 at 12:12

Regarding Skipton BS, having checked their website I notice they now require new members to waive any windfall rights to charity if they demutulise within five years of joining.

Quite right in my opinion, however it could still be worth joining for the long term.

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JohnW

Feb 09, 2013 at 12:22

I dont think they will ever do that Pepsi. There is now a devil of a lot of money tied up in S&S ISA's and this forms a stable base. People are reluctant to cash in their shares/funds when there is bad news, because of the time it would take to get their money back into the market when it picks up. If they allowed us to swap into cash ISA's, at the first sign of problems so many people would do just that that it would destabilise the market and lead to a crash.

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cc

Feb 09, 2013 at 15:08

I don't know if it is generally true, but most people I know have always used the Stocks and Shares ISA's rather than the Cash accounts simply because they could put more into them.

You can always choose a fund that is relatively low risk using the available tables - we all know that "markets can go up as well as down" - but in the long term (even with the falls over recent years) virtually all my ISA's show a return greater than a typical cash ISA. I suspect that if you chose a fund with a better but more risky (and volatile) return you may have been less lucky. When you take all the ISA tax benefits into account you can afford to look for a safer and lower return which is, in effect, grossed up by the tax you do not pay. Pays to be less greedy perhaps in this climate?

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MOGO

Feb 09, 2013 at 17:51

Agree with 'cc' don't try to be too greedy and spread your ISA's across cash and S & S. I shall migrate some of my cash ISA's into S&S as the reasonable term cash ISA's mature. If deposit interest rates improve in a year ot two's time you can always cash in some S &S ISA's and feed it back into cash ISA's.

It's all about having a balanced investment strategy and strategies have to be constantly tweaked to suit prevailing conditions.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 09, 2013 at 20:47

Going back to the original question, I think that misplaced fear and avoidable ignorance will prevent many people from doing the sensible thing which is go for equities.

If you want income, there are a many individual equities with a high yield and quite a few funds. I prefer individual shares for all the usual reasons.

Barring tax issues, there is no logical reason to prefer income to capital gains so at the right time growth shares are as good as income shares. Income shares that rise in price are of course ideal. Diligent research will discover them. Courage, mes enfants!

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Hotrod

Feb 10, 2013 at 10:50

@Jeremy Bosk

Your comments are erudite and optimistic, but in my opinion too general to apply to everyone.

Lets face it, in these austere times many people who have acquired an appreciable sum of money to invest are "getting on a bit" (in age). They, like me, will not live for ever. In fact in many cases they can make an educated guess as to how many years they have left, and based on their medical history the probabilities of infirmity which would affect their quality of life.

Setting aside these considerations for a moment, lets return to stock market performance. According to my charts a signifcant change has a accurred since the collapse of 2008, in as much that individual share prices are far more volatile than they used to be. A private investor may be able to live with these fluctuations if he/she has a broad spread of holdings or invested solely in funds but for those who only have a limited amount of cash to invest it could turn out to be something of a lottery.

Returning to personal considerations I'm mindful of the fact that Michael Winner, was diagnosed with cancer and was given a year and a half to live. (ha.ha. He was dead within six months at the age of 77) So it may sensible for some to plan how they are going to leave what they've got rather than trying to acquire more.

In my case I had built up a considerable capital gain prior to the credit crunch by principally investing in builders, builders merchants, and property companies, but I saw the writing on the wall and sold out in January 2008, I was quite happy to settle my CGT bill with HMRC.

As things stand at the moment, by holding cash, I can contemplate moving to a more labour saving home, or moving out temporarily so that my house could be adapted to make it suitable for someone with elderly care needs.

These are sobering thoughts, but I have to face up it, and I don't wish to leave a mess for someone else to clear up when I'm gone.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 10, 2013 at 13:01

Hotrod

You make excellent points and I admire your clear sightedness in planning ahead for the possibility of infirmity.

I have a fairly clear idea of my own time limit. My income and capital are too small to allow me to spend anything on preparations for infirmity. So I am going for broke, taking risks to make some money on the markets. If I had more to lose, I would be more cautious.

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cc

Feb 10, 2013 at 14:06

Jeremy Bosk: I too have always understood that logically there is no reason to prefer income to capital gains, it is just another way of being "paid" for the risk that you take. However I have in the back of my mind the memory that overall growth in your capital is higher from (reinvested) income funds than from growth funds - I'm happy to be corrected if this is not the case. I've always put this down to the fact that institutions, the largest investors in most companies, expect dividends to grow - even if it is at the expense of growth.

As you mention, tax is always an issue with ISA's - it works both ways; although capital gains and income tax are not paid, I believe that tax is deducted from dividends which cannot be reclaimed. This may be enough to make growth shares or funds more attractive.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 10, 2013 at 14:59

cc

Yes, tax complicates decision making which is very wrong. Tax rates should not push investors into one style of investing or another. They reduce returns and add to costs for no good reason.

Personally, I hold some shares in an ISA and others outside, mainly because of the silly rule against having AIM shares in ISAs. There are sound companies and dross in both AIM and the main market.

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cc

Feb 10, 2013 at 15:24

Yes, I do the same - and one of my AIM shares is currently running at a huge capital loss, a "benefit" that I would not get from an ISA!

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 10, 2013 at 22:10

cc

Well, not all AIM shares are winners. I hold two at present. I am up 34 percent on Noble Investments (since February 2011) and sixty per cent up on Greenwich Loan Income Fund (most bought in August 2010, topped up in May 2011).

What I do with losers is sell them before the loss becomes too significant, usually somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent. I look hard at a loss of 15 per cent and decide whether I think it is recoverable or it was just a bad buy. At 20 per cent loss I sell anyway. Selling losers is my chief strength, I know too many people who hang on "just until they are back where I bought them" and will probably die of old age waiting.

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cc

Feb 11, 2013 at 10:20

Agree Jeremy and would have been better to sell but I inherited them and by the time we got probate and would have been free to sell they had fallen from £6+ to under £1. Even worse now but not worth selling as they are worth very little overall. Keeping them on the off-chance and will use the loss later.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 11, 2013 at 16:56

cc

I sympathise.

Cretinous solicitors who even managed to lose share certificates cost me a fortune by their delays. The trustee nominally in charge was senile which didn't help. He was a religious maniac who thought interest was immoral. So he kept 3/4 of my inheritance in an interest free current account for five years until I reached the age of 21. If you care about your beneficiaries, don't choose your solicitors from the phone book and keep the trustees under review as well as the will. These days I would sue all concerned.

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Hotrod

Feb 13, 2013 at 14:03

Who do you fancy for the next Pope?

My bet is Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (Argentina)

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JohnW

Feb 13, 2013 at 14:36

"Who do you fancy for the next Pope?"

Unless he is going to do something for ISA rates I'm not the slightest bit interested!

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 13, 2013 at 15:36

If you click on the forums menu there is a section called general chat. The papal question belongs there.

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Dennis .

Feb 13, 2013 at 15:46

Given that the Pope has an influence over 1.2 billion people worldwide I think that you should indeed be interested. More people listen to him than any other world leader.

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JohnW

Feb 13, 2013 at 16:35

I make my own mind up on that one Dennis. I did not come here to discuss religion with anyone.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 13, 2013 at 18:42

Dennis

You have a point. We should all be concerned that so many delusional people claim to follow whichever charlatan is infesting the Vatican at any one time. The true believers of any religion are a public menace. Fortunately, most of them only use their churches as a social club. The Catholic Church, in the UK and Ireland anyway, is in the same position the C of E was in fifty years ago. People pay lip service but where it matters, on issues such as divorce, gays, contraception and abortion they use their brains.

I have even met nominal Muslims who express strongly secular views that would get them murdered in Iran or Pakistan.

But really, if anyone has the energy, this discussion should be under the General Chat forum.

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J Thomas

Feb 13, 2013 at 21:18

I agree this topic has nothing to do with Cash ISA rates.

The only comment I would make is that from a financial and asset preservation/enhancement view the Catholic Church and Vatican is the most successful religion ever by a long way.

Very cleverely, a thousand years ago the Papacy decreed that Catholic Priests were not allowed to marry or have children. This meant with no widows, divorce, or inheritance to children, all assets remained with the Catholic Church ad infinitum.

In addition a vast amount of Property, art treasures, gold and fine antiques, and a huge amount of cash and shares, remain under the watchful eye of The Holy See.

A private investor could do no better than to follow The Vatican guide to asset growth and income.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 13, 2013 at 23:32

J Thomas

But what is the point of spending a lifetime accumulating wealth if you have no heirs? :-)

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Hotrod

Feb 13, 2013 at 23:56

@J Thomas.

I agree, I have reached similar conclusions myself. The Church of England and the Russian Orthodox Church are also pretty astute when it comes to money management.

In the case of Cof E they have a little known subsidiary investment vehicle called Sylvanus Lysons (registered as a charity) the purpose of which is to provide welfare for retired clerics. The last time I read their accounts, they had over a £billion in agricultural land, property, and stocks & shares.

The Russians do things slightly differently. In many towns around Moscow, piped water is undrinkable, but the R.O.C. own artesian wells, (deep bore holes) They sell bottled water on an industrial scale.

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William Phillips

Feb 14, 2013 at 16:55

Every time the venerable Jeremy Bosk opens his mouth to dilate on party politics or religion, out comes a generalisation that makes him sound more fanatical than the fanatics whose hidden hand he detects all around him:

"The true believers of any religion are a public menace. Fortunately, most of them only use their churches as a social club. "

How would he even know, if he shuns places of worship?

Characters like him used to mutter to themselves on park benches. Thanks to the interwebby we all have to wade through, or past, his late-19C 'rationalist' ruderies. That is the trouble with these modern, enlightened, progressive types-- they live in the past, before it became obvious they were on a hiding to nothing. I bet Bosk regrets the end of official atheism in the dear old USSR and the rapid spread of Christianity in China.

As for the financial wizardry of my church: in the late 1980s the CofE took a bath in property and its ability to pay a full-time ministry was imperilled. Luckily, or by God's grace, it was suddenly discovered that despite the precedent of over 1,000 years there was no theological objection to ordaining women, who expected less money or would give their services free of charge. At that time a majority of women in the Church did not want vicaresses, and the unilateral move threatened to split the Anglican Communion, but the bank managers were happy.

He sure does move in a mysterious way sometimes.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 14, 2013 at 21:36

William

I talk to people, even fundamentalists who believe God made the world only a few thousand years ago. I grew up around a variety of people who were nominally Christian, churchgoers and non-churchgoers. I have known - and still know - Muslims, Jews and Hindus of varying degrees of belief. You can learn a lot by talking to people and listening to them.

There are documentaries on radio and television, books, newspaper and magazine articles and so on. There are also history books and the so called Holy Books themselves. You can learn a lot by watching and reading.

Mostly, I learn by observing religious people. Some are sincere and behave with kindness and honesty. Some are sincere and are evil. Most fall somewhere between.

Yes, religion is spreading in the more backward parts of the world. You can trace its path by the growing repression, the tortures and murders, the savagery. Not just savages like the Taliban or the Saudis and Iranians; it also applies to so called Christians in parts of Africa who murder people for being gay or give "corrective therapy" to lesbians by gang raping them. Converts to your cause, eh?

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William Phillips

Feb 15, 2013 at 01:49

"Yes, religion is spreading in the more backward parts of the world." Among "savages", already.

Like Russians, or the Chinese whose average IQ is higher than that of white Europeans?

You are a bit of an old-fashioned supremacist as well as an antique anti-religious bigot, aren't you? Like HG Wells and his kind a hundred years ago: 'progressives' who thought the less 'efficient' peoples of the world should be wiped out so northern European socialists could inherit the earth. Or are you going to reason the poor stupid 98% of mankind out of faith into what-- the attitude to life and its value and purpose that can be inferred from the peevish stream of bloviation you drizzle continuously on to a financial website?

Wells only speculated, but when it comes to persecuting and killing people, the modern-day infidels of the 'civilised' world make Genghis Khan green with envy. You have to believe in communism-- Stalin's, Mao's or Pol Pot's-- and not fear divine retribution to slaughter your 'comrades' so heartily. You have to profess superstitions such as equality and the possibility of a future Utopia down here, which are far crasser than the tenets of the great religions.

Maybe that's why secular ideologies don't last the way religion does: the unprovable trumps the resoundingly disproved. There are lot more worshippers even in Britain than active members of political parties or campaigns.

But of course you are absolutely right-- as a middle of the road member of the Church of England I must heartlly approve of the beastly behaviour you describe. However did you guess? Your psychological acuity takes my breath away. What a profound knowledge of ordinary human nature you have picked up from your numerous conversations with us God-fearing dupes.

Got to dash now, me and the Parochial Church Council are going out looking for a homosexual to do in.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 15, 2013 at 03:37

William Phillips

I define savagery by behaviour, not ethnicity. It seems to flourish best among the uneducated or barely educated who are, for historical reasons, mainly found outside Europe and North America.

The number of people who have escaped brainwashing is growing all the time in the UK and even in that bastion of religious mania the USA. Your figure of 98 per cent of the world population as being infected by religion is way out of date. In the UK 2011 census, 25 per cent of the population define themselves as having no religion.

The priests and shamans of the religious claim that those of us who do not "fear divine retribution" or follow the precise dictates of their own sect must all be evil. This is followed by incitement to attack the sane and decent people so that religious fascists will rule the world through fear and intimidation. Religion is all too often no better than terrorism. Sometimes threats of what will happen in the fictitious afterlife, sometimes torture and murder in this life.

Interesting that you left out of your list of mass murderers the Crusaders, the Inquisition and Hitler. Are their crimes somehow less offensive to you?

Religious scepticism goes way before the 19th century, back to at least the sixth century BC in both Europe and Asia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_atheism

I have twice in this very thread suggested that religious discussions belong in the General Chat Forum. That forum exists on this mainly financial web site precisely to permit such discussions without bringing disharmony to those solely interested in money matters - the worship of Mammon. Oh dear, it seems we cannot escape religion!

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Dennis .

Feb 15, 2013 at 09:29

Rabbi and a Priest are discussing career options

Priest says that in the Catholic Church you can become a Bishop

Rabbi says then what?

Priest says well you could become an Archbishop

then what?

well you could then become a Cardinal

then what ?

well you could become Pope

then what?

Priest says well there is no one except the Almighty above the Pope

Rabbi responds "well one of our boys made it!"

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Hotrod

Feb 15, 2013 at 13:23

Thanks Dennis, you have brought I little light-hearted humour to the party. I tried to frame my original question to try and lighten up an otherwise heavy over-burden.

Life is too absurd and it will be over all too soon for a mere mortal such as me. I am of the opinion that the absolute origin of life is a question which may never be definitively answered, but Faith, Conformity, Wealth, and Power will be phenomon that will govern the world long after I'm gone.

In the mean-time I am guided by Bertrand Russell's philosophy which was:

"The world is a horrible place" "Once you fully understand that, you can begin to be content"

Whatever anyone thinks or says, there will be another Pope. I am not a Catholic so why should I be interested. Well I have been to Rome as a tourist and visited St. Peter's Basilica, and the inner sanctum of the Vatican, where that decision will be made.

It struck me as rather comical that Bookmakers are giving odds already as to who that person might be, even Prof: Richard Dawkins is listed at 666/ 1

Now they say a picture is better than a thousand words, so in making my guesstimate, I studied the faces of the major contenders. It seemed clear to me that there are some bully boys amonst them and also some faithful, reliable, yes-men who will always be close, but not made of the right stuff to be elected to the top job.

I just thought that Cardinal Sandri has the look of a Pope about him and has suitable experience to hold such an important post. I will be interested to see how accurate my judgement is.

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Jeremy Bosk

Feb 15, 2013 at 16:30

Dennis

Thank you for your contribution. I always need cheering up after discussing religion with believers.

Hotrod

I am sorry that I did not just ignore your light hearted comment. I generally suffer a failure of humour over religion. You may have noticed :-)

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J Thomas

Feb 15, 2013 at 17:12

Thank you to all who have contributed to this debate, some very good and valid points, and a nice joke Dennis.

On closing, I would like to say that I hope the next Pope comes from these shores, I speak of course of our own Cardinal Keith O'Brien, a man of great intellect ( BSc Chemistry, Mathematics ) and high moral compass. I attended the same School as him, at a later date, and have met him on several occasions.

It is very rarely the case that the favourites win the Papacy, Cardinal O'Brien will be flying out to help select the next Pope,let us hope he does not require the ' return ' section of his ticket.

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